Max Corbett
Language Arts
Max Corbett
Fall 2006
Milkweed By Jerry Spinelli

Project Overview

The start of this book really sparked my interest. I enjoy reading about the innocence of children and how they look out at life. I feel that adults often forget the simple pleasures a child enjoys. The images and descriptions that Jerry used were very different from the way World War II is normally described. I wanted to capture events in the book and link them to real events. I would often find myself trying to guess what year or month the war was in based on Misha’s observations.

Timeline: (PDF File)

Symbolism and Facts

I started the timeline with Misha’s “birth” as our lit circle came to agree upon, the time when Uri assigned him a name and history in the barbershop. I used a green background here to symbolize life being safe and simple. Misha had to steal enough food for himself, which was easy and plentiful to do. He also had events that lead him to be happy; Jackboots, the merry go round and angels.

 Then the war really picked up and I choose a red background symbolizing lose and struggle. He is shot at for being out after the curfew and notices the trees are missing. He sees Jews being “punished” and treated badly and is happy not to be a Jew. In real life the anti-Semitic riots break out and Jewish shops are destroyed. Jews are forced to wear armbands to identify themselves in the story and in real life on November23, 1939. Misha observes construction of the great wall and November 15, 1940 the Nazi’s seal off the Warsaw Ghetto.

 Inside the Ghetto Misha is taken into a family, the Milgrom’s where he gets a “sister” to play with. He teaches her all Uri’s tricks for getting food. They are all forced to stand at attention all night. The Nazi’s would often force the Jews to do activities to degrade them. Force them to work till they died, pick up the bodies and not feed them for weeks. At this point Misha begins to dislike the Jackboots and no longer wants to be one. I picture this event from history class and movies about WWII and how horribly the Nazis treated people.

 The ghetto is destroyed and the Jews are all shipped off to “paradise” which is a concentration camp via train. This probably occurs around May 1943 when the ghettos are destroyed and the Jews are relocated. Here Misha looses Janine forever and is no longer able to protect her. In 1945 the war ends but people are still not safe. Misha eventually travels to America where he is given a new name, Jack. He has a daughter and a granddaughter who create a new family for him. He is able to have Janine live through his granddaughter in the form of a middle name.

There is no set timetable in Milkweed, no way to identify how many years it covers. We only read about Janine’s one birthday and the Milgrom’s celebrated two Hanukkahs in the ghetto. The reader must use events throughout the story to create their own perceived time. By matching events from WWII history to events Jerry Spinelli incorporated in Misha’s life we are able to create a rough timeline and see the war through a child’s eyes.  


I enjoyed making up the timeline. I have a thing for graphic designs and wanted to illustrate how the book followed real events in our history. I felt Jerry Spinelli did an excellent job of comparing Misha’s life to history. I tried to set up my timeline with Misha’s life on the top and real world events on the bottom. I used different background to convey the feelings that Misha was going through. Using an open extension project like this helped me to go back through the book for fun and pick out events I wanted. I did not feel like this was an assignment especially since I thoroughly enjoyed this read. Using and extension similar to this in a classroom where students could pick one of four projects and pick if they wanted to partner up or not could be a lot of fun while learning.

 My favorite part was finding events in the story that I recall learning about in real life. The burning of bodies and ash “snowing” down, standing at attention all night, being forced onto the train with the lie of paradise are some examples.

 I feel I did a great job laying out the whole timeline in a professional manner and it is easy to read and follow. I put a great deal of effort into having objects line up so it was straightforward to read.

 One wish is if this story is used in the classroom at the eight grade level that is becomes linked with a social studies topic to allow students to further find events from both classes and create a interdisciplinary project. The English and social studies teacher can work together to create one killer lesson.


1-Does not meet requirement
2-Partaly meets requirement
3-Has most components of requirement
4-Has all components required
5-Exceeds require components 

Referenced 10 events in Misha’s life in order


Compared Misha’s life to 5 events in WWII


Included 10 pictures to illustrate events


Neat and organized layout


Spelling and punctuation correct


Self reflection included


Total (out of 30pts) X 3


On Time (10pts)